House Republicans just dealt Trump a humiliating defeat by killing major bill

A massive farm bill that includes mean-spirited work requirement rules for most food stamp recipients failed to pass the House of Representatives today despite the best efforts of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) – exposing a major rift among Republicans that could be a divisive issue for the majority party going into the November elections. 

Ryan and the bumbling Republican leadership pushed the bill that reauthorizes billions in farm subsidies to a vote despite questions about whether enough conservative Republicans would vote for it, knowing that every Democrat would vote against it.

The conservatives wanted a vote on a tough immigration bill first before they would consider the farm bill, and refused a series of offers for compromises that had Ryan promising a vote on the immigration legislation in June.

“The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration,” reports The Washington Post, “a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.”

The battle inside the Republican party is between moderates who want to provide a path to citizenship for DACA DREAMers, young people brought to the U.S. as children, and conservatives who want to pass a bill that would authorize President Trump’s expensive border wall, crack down on “sanctuary cities” that protect undocumented aliens from the federal immigration crackdown and provide temporary guest worker permits that do not include a path to citizenship.

The farm bill had already raised a partisan divide despite extensive negotiations.

The Democrats balked at Republican demands that require adult food stamp recipients to spend 20 hours per week either working or taking part in state-run training programs.

Democrats charge that most states don’t have training programs and won’t set them up which will result in millions of people losing benefits.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) termed the legislation as “cruel” and said that if the food stamp changes were approved, “Republicans are taking food out of the mouths of families struggling to make ends meet.”

The current farm bill, which expires Sept. 30, extends Agriculture Department subsidies to farmers when average crop prices fall below certain levels. The new bill would expand the definition of who is a farmer.

The bill would also re-authorize huge subsidies to sugar producers which conservatives have been trying to eliminate.

Eventually, the House is expected to vote on not one, but four immigration bills, ranging from the conservative approach to a more moderate path. Under House rules, the bill that gets the highest number of votes above the mandatory majority needed for passage would be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Ironically, after all of today’s drama and frenzied last-minute negotiations – which all failed – there is almost no chance the Senate will go along with the demands of the conservative Republicans in the House. 

Any bill that ultimately reaches the president’s desk will be more like the Senate version, which is not likely to include the tough new food stamp work rules.

That is because in the Senate the Republicans will need at least some Democratic votes for passage and the Democrats are not going to support the mean-spirited new food stamp regulations.

Trump, meanwhile, insists he won’t sign a bill that doesn’t have the food stamp work rules so it is unclear what will happen to the farm bill or the immigration legislation.

What is clear is that feuding Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot just before the Congress is headed to a summer recess and into the November election where just over two dozen seats have to switch to Democratic control to give the Democrats the majority and control over the House, which would change everything.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.